Pro Pundit Teams

A strong bench and going for broke: the ways FPL bosses can tackle a busy December

In his latest column, three-time top 5k finisher Az looks at the strategies to consider as we get ready for seven Gameweek deadlines in the space of a month.


I’m writing this on December 1 and having just received the news that the Aston Villa v Newcastle game, originally set to be played on Friday, has been called off.

In a way, it’s remarkable that, given the situation that’s happening across the globe, this is the first Premier League game to be postponed this season. Hopefully, it will be the last.

With many people holding two to three assets from Aston Villa and/or Newcastle, this comes at a bad time for our squads, especially as the focus for many is on juggling around their heavy hitters. 

For a lot of managers, there simply isn’t the wiggle room to consider shifting the likes of Jack Grealish (£7.7m), Emiliano Martinez (£4.8m), Ollie Watkins (£6.1m) and Callum Wilson (£6.5m) for one week only. All of these players have decent fixtures and are doing enough to justify their selections in our teams. It’s a shame to have to be putting out fires when we are trying to maximise the points potential.

As we look for ways to give our FPL squads the best possible chance of returns during an unpredictable month, one way of playing is to turn relatively defensive. This means ensuring that our teams are strong and healthy and that we can dip into our benches if and when needed. 

Alternatively, people might be looking to go for the jugular. This means trying to juggle heavy hitters and squeeze out as many points as possible during this busy period. While this poses a considerable risk, it of course may lead to huge returns if you can nail it.

Time to strengthen the bench?

Hunt for £4.0m FPL defender takes a turn as Ferguson ruled out through injury

The news of the postponement at Villa Park does serve as a bit of a wake-up call that a bench of players who at least play regularly for their teams seems a pretty good idea going into the festive schedule. With Tyrick Mitchell (£4.0m) now seemingly doomed to watch on from the sidelines, many of us are down to just two players on our FPL benches. 

The continued threat of coronavirus, as well as a packed winter schedule, means this may need to be addressed. Many of us are carrying players who seem likely to be at least in some way rotated over Christmas. For example, any of the Manchester City assets, Reece James (£5.1m), Timo Werner (£9.5m) and maybe even now Liverpool midfielders, with Diogo Jota’s (£6.8m) emergence, all look a little vulnerable. Now might be a good time to make sure you are prepared for any omissions.

Upgrading Mitchell to a £4.5m defender may seem a bit boring, but it might put you in good stead in the weeks to come. Stuart Dallas (£4.5m) looks the standout option at this price point for me. Five goal attempts over the last four Gameweeks puts him up with the likes of Reece James (£5.1m) and Ben Chilwell (£6.2m) and Leeds have a great run of fixtures to come, with only Manchester United looking like a potential banana skin right up until January 2.

Luke Ayling (£4.5m) is also a consideration, with the right-back boasting nearly double the number of penalty area touches (13) compared to Dallas over this time. However, despite promising stats, he has yet to register an attacking return this season, whereas Dallas already has a goal and an assist.

If one of the Leeds defenders doesn’t float your boat – or you already own one – then the other options to turn to are Arthur Masuaku (£4.5m) or Vladmir Coufal (£4.6m). I really like how West Ham are currently set up under David Moyes, who is doing a fantastic job when many (including myself!) had written them off. 

Both Coufal and Masuaku have just 2.3% ownership at the time of writing, and once Manchester United are out the way this week, have a great run of fixtures right up until the end of January, with only Chelsea in Gameweek 14 looking like a good time to bench whichever defender you bring in.

Going for broke

The less conservative strategy at this stage is to accept whatever state our “fringe” players are in and really try and hammer the assets who have the biggest upside.

Mohamed Salah (£12.2m), Kevin De Bruyne (£11.7m) and Bruno Fernandes (£10.8m) all delivered in Gameweek 10. Many view these three as the “holy trinity” – players we should get in our squads no matter what.

However, is this perhaps doing a disservice to the likes of Harry Kane (£10.9m), Son Heung-min (£9.5m) and Jamie Vardy (£10.2m), who have all had stellar starts to the season? For many, these are the sacrificial lambs as people look to pastures new.

I feel that a case can be made for any combination of the above, which really reflects how exciting this season is, with so many players being worthy of our consideration. However, out of all the options, I really do feel that Fernandes has done enough to make him immune from any form of “hokey-cokey”. If you don’t have him, he’d be the one that I’d look to get in before he’s out of reach.

While the likes of Jota and even Riyad Mahrez (£8.3m) may be good value for their price – and this is how you should look at them, not as “coverage” for their more prestigious team-mates – I worry that the bubble could burst at any minute and we could be left with egg on our face. 

Salah and co look set to continue to deliver points all season. The trick is going to be knowing when these hauls are likely and when to get on them.

I brought in Vardy this week and a poor Leicester performance is making me consider whether he can really keep pace with the other players in his price bracket. An away game at Sheffield United, who have made the worst start to a Premier League season from any team in history, looks a good match-up for the Sheffield Wednesday fan so I’m not panicking just yet.

But, depending on whether you think Brighton is a tough game, Vardy’s fixtures are a lot less rosy thereafter and so the short-term pick of the Englishman may prove to be a costly one. He looks set to depart my team after being given little time to truly impress.

With no Salah or De Bruyne in my squad, and both with Fulham on the horizon, I am getting jittery. I think Son and Kane who will simply struggle to match De Bruyne and Salah over the next five Gameweeks, until Spurs themselves play Fulham in Gameweek 16. But moving these players out will require a hit, so timing feels like everything. For those that made the move before the Chelsea stalemate, well played. I think this was the time to do it. 

With games against Arsenal and Crystal Palace next, it feels risky shifting out the Spurs assets, so if you think they can continue to deliver points, then holding might be a sensible strategy. That said, can you really afford to ignore the upside of both De Bruyne and then Salah against Fulham? 

It’s hard to argue with a move for De Bruyne this week, which may be even better if paired with plans for another switch to Salah for the Gameweek after. Jiggery-pokery at its finest. 

My decision

The best Man City players for appealing fixtures after 5-0 win over Burnley

I’m toying with the idea of acquiring Mahrez for the Fulham game, which would mean ignoring De Bruyne entirely and looking for a way to bring in Salah for Gameweek 12. 

Getting a City player in feels a priority this week and a rest for the Algerian in the Champions League and some very, very promising comments from Guardiola about how “players who score will start” certainly bodes well for his chances of a start against the Cottagers.

This means I could hold on to both Son and Vardy this weekend and potentially move them both on next week to get Salah and Bamford, who have Fulham and West Ham respectively in Gameweek 12. Alternatively, I could lose Son this week and keep Hakim Ziyech (£8.3m) for his home match against Leeds.

Salah is the player who I’m coveting for the long term. Simply put, not owning him in my squad just feels… wrong. Okay there is the increased chance of rotation now that Jota is doing such a good job, but put simply, the Egyptian has proven over the last few seasons that he is the player most likely to register huge returns and if I’m ever torn between who to captain, he’s my go-to. 

As a captaincy option, while I’m happy with Fernandes if I need to, games against Fulham, Palace, West Brom and Newcastle in quick succession provide a perfect platform for the Liverpool double-up of Salah and Jota. City’s fixtures do also remain excellent, but there is the higher chance of rotation, a slight risk of De Bruyne dropping deeper to control the midfield in “tougher” games and from what I’ve seen from Man City, the high likelihood of a spread of points across their very capable forward line. 

Turning my back on last season’s top FPL performer doesn’t feel great and I know what he’s capable of. But you can’t have them all and this feels like something we are all going to have to put up with this season. Hopefully, we’re about to see the Mahrez of old who is more than capable of scoring 200+ points this season if he plays a decent number of minutes – although I also appreciate that he’s someone that can cause misery for those who take the punt on him. We’ll see what happens.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck for the following weeks. It’s going to be a wild ride.

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Become a Member and get unrestricted access to our data and articles

Full-year memberships and monthly subscriptions are now available.

Join now to get the following:

  • Plot your transfer strategies using the fully interactive Season Ticker.
  • Get projections for every Premier League player provided by the Rate My Team statistical model.
  • Use Rate My Team throughout the season to guide your selections and transfers.
  • Get access to over 150+ exclusive members articles over the season.
  • Analyse our OPTA-powered statistic tables specifically tailored for Fantasy Football Managers.
  • Use our exclusive tool to build custom stats tables from over 100 OPTA player and team stats.
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Az Follow me on Twitter : @ffscout_az” Follow him on Twitter

1,832 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Zim0
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 3 Years
    10 months, 21 days ago

    Oof martial...

    1. GE
      • 5 Years
      10 months, 21 days ago

      His confident is so low at the moment...

      1. Zim0
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 3 Years
        10 months, 21 days ago

        Yeah 🙁 it'll be even lower now

  2. GE
    • 5 Years
    10 months, 21 days ago

    Martinez -> McCarthy (-4)?

    1. Little Red Lacazette
      • 5 Years
      10 months, 21 days ago

      No.

    2. doher.ty
      • 1 Year
      10 months, 21 days ago

      Nah

  3. ⭐ Bemba_Da ⭐
    • 11 Years
    10 months, 21 days ago

    So bad

  4. JIMMY764
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 7 Years
    10 months, 21 days ago

    Wow

  5. sentz05
    • 5 Years
    10 months, 21 days ago

    Best defenders to own long term?

    I have Justin Chilwell Coufal Cancelo

    1. BeWater
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 1 Year
      10 months, 21 days ago

      There are two I want in my team asap. Reece James and Dallas. And maybe Lamptey.

  6. doher.ty
    • 1 Year
    10 months, 21 days ago

    Anyone else going with 10 players this gw? Already used my FT and now Martinez is out - it's what I get for early transfers.

    1. IN SANE IN DE BRUYNE
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 5 Years
      10 months, 21 days ago

      No, think I'm gonna bring McCarthy for free for Steer to be able to field 11 players + strengthen the bench.

      1. doher.ty
        • 1 Year
        10 months, 21 days ago

        That is sound - I just can't make a GK work. I'll bite the bullet this week and pray!

    2. JohnnyRev7
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 11 Years
      10 months, 21 days ago

      Quite a lot. I am. If you can field 10 keeperless it's better than taking a hit for a GK. Or removing future AVL DGW assets.

      1. doher.ty
        • 1 Year
        10 months, 21 days ago

        Totally! Jack is staying for sure! I just don't want to remove them just to get them back knowing they have multiple *potential DWG.

    3. Sam-not-so-wise
      • 2 Years
      10 months, 21 days ago

      yep, and I took a - 12

  7. G-Whizz
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • Has Moderation Rights
    • 4 Years
    10 months, 21 days ago

    Anthony Farcial...

  8. BeWater
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 1 Year
    10 months, 21 days ago

    If Martial had been the skipper on the Titanic he would have missed the iceberg.

    1. Champions League Varane
      • 2 Years
      10 months, 21 days ago

      Oh come on

      1. BeWater
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 1 Year
        10 months, 21 days ago

        Sorry Tone 🙂

    2. G-Whizz
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • Has Moderation Rights
      • 4 Years
      10 months, 21 days ago

      😆

  9. aborg
    • 4 Years
    10 months, 21 days ago

    With Kovacic and Jorginho both playing this evening, does Jorginho play in the PL this GW ? (usually Kovacic takes his place)

  10. ⭐ Bemba_Da ⭐
    • 11 Years
    10 months, 21 days ago

    Bruno been very quiet

    1. Zim0
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 3 Years
      10 months, 21 days ago

      I hope he gets subbed. He could do with a rest

    2. doher.ty
      • 1 Year
      10 months, 21 days ago

      Saving it for the weekend.

  11. FPLHaggis
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 6 Years
    10 months, 21 days ago

    FT used for this week. How do I fit Bruno in here? (In a few gws)

    Mendy (Forster)
    Chilwell Dias Lamptey (Ayling Kilman)
    Salak KDB Grealish Jota (Soucek)
    Kane DCL Antonio
    0.0itb

    1. doher.ty
      • 1 Year
      10 months, 21 days ago

      You'll have to lose Salah, KDB, or Kane - I can't see any other way unless you have a WC.

  12. Champions League Varane
    • 2 Years
    10 months, 21 days ago

    oh tony why oh why 🙁

  13. Babit1967
    • 5 Years
    10 months, 21 days ago

    Anyone going without de Bruyne? And if so, who is your captain ?

    1. g40steve
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 3 Years
      10 months, 21 days ago

      Mahrez

      1. Babit1967
        • 5 Years
        10 months, 21 days ago

        Good choice I think

    2. It’s gonna Ben Mee
      • 7 Years
      10 months, 21 days ago

      Yes, Bruno or Vardy (c)

  14. Stormbringer22
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 2 Years
    10 months, 21 days ago

    Would you take the following -8 hit:

    Kane + Bowen + Cancelo 》 Salah + Bamford + Reece James

    Leaves me with the team I really want of:

    Martinez
    Chilwell - James - Lamptey
    Salah - KDB - Bruno - Son - Grealish
    DCL - Bamford

    Have exact funds to do the -8 and will be priced out if I wait until next GW. Could downgrade DCL in a couple of weeks to upgrade the bench.

    1. Fit_to_drop
      • 2 Years
      10 months, 21 days ago

      Very strong starting XI

    2. Salah’s Sonnet
      • 10 Years
      10 months, 21 days ago

      That will be my from 8 by gameweek 12 with same keeper, chillers and James and Dallas

  15. Right In The Stanchion
    • 1 Year
    10 months, 21 days ago

    Is there any clue as to when Villa v Newcastle will be rescheduled and DGW?

  16. Silecro
    • 3 Years
    10 months, 21 days ago

    Giroud starting vs Leeds then

  17. OneMan
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 5 Years
    10 months, 21 days ago

    Will Martinez have a double soon ?

    Or better to get rid for Meslier ?

    1. doher.ty
      • 1 Year
      10 months, 21 days ago

      No one knows when it will be but if every canceled game becomes a DWG they will have two.

  18. seanie3
    • 10 Years
    10 months, 21 days ago

    Is cancelo now second choice behind mendy or will they be rotated? Not sure if I should sell him

    1. BeWater
      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
      • 1 Year
      10 months, 21 days ago

      I own him. I don't think there is any chance he plays on the weekend. Then he'll play midweek champions league. Then he won't play again v United. He may get a game v WBA which is 3 days after United. That's how I think it plays out.

      1. seanie3
        • 10 Years
        10 months, 21 days ago

        Thanks so looks like I need to sell him as 5.4m way too much invested in non playing defender.. who are you moving him on for? Or who would you recommend, I have chilwell and cresswell already

        1. BeWater
          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
          • 1 Year
          10 months, 21 days ago

          Unfortunately I have a useless lump called Mitrovic in my team. I promised myself no matter what he wouldn't survive another week under any circumstance. So I may just keep Cancelo this week. If I didn't have to make that move I would get Reece James in for Cancelo. I'm actually tempted to take a -4 just to get it done.

  19. ⭐ Bemba_Da ⭐
    • 11 Years
    10 months, 21 days ago

    Cavani hits the bar

  20. Zim0
    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
    • 3 Years
    10 months, 21 days ago

    Oh my Jesus. How is that not in the net

  21. shabalala
      10 months, 21 days ago

      I need help. I have Kane and Grealish in my team. Bench: Killman, Brewster, Riedewald and Im at - 8 hit at the moment. Should I take free hit? 634 points OR 84k

      1. Team Bobcat
        • 4 Years
        10 months, 21 days ago

        I think you are in free hit territory. I too have three villa and and a bench of mitchell jorginho and semedo. Semedo the omly guaranteed starter and aginst liv...

        I need a (-8) to start eleven with semedo included. That leves no sub. I have jota and he is a risk competing with formino. That to mee is free hit territory

        My OR is 200k. I have been playing conservatively after a wildcard in gw3. I had identified that a bench is crucial in recent times but i was always putting out fires. That bench now haunting me.

        1. shabalala
            10 months, 20 days ago

            Thank you

      2. BeWater
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 1 Year
        10 months, 21 days ago

        Marshie what the hell man. What a chip from Cavani.

      3. Ógie
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 8 Years
        10 months, 21 days ago

        Ahhhhhhhhh!

        That would have been epic.

      4. Zim0
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 3 Years
        10 months, 21 days ago

        Giroud is the most underrated and undervalued striker ever. Such a consistent scorer whenever he starts but everyone is offput to have him as their first choice striker

        1. seanie3
          • 10 Years
          10 months, 21 days ago

          Big clubs in Europe want him in jan and wanted him last season also, shame lamps doesn’t play him more in the PL but is spoilt for choice now trying to fit all new purchases in the team and playing tammy also.. I personally would start giroud and drop tammy who isn’t playing well, form is with giroud and would have buried one or two of the 3 golden chances tammy had against spurs last weekend

          1. Qaiss
            • 5 Years
            10 months, 21 days ago

            Werner would have many more chances with Giroud prob. I also would not mind him back at Arsenal, we could do with him. But will never happen.

      5. Parsnips
          10 months, 21 days ago

          Does Barkley > Mahrez seem a decent transfer here? 2.9ITB

          Ryan
          Coufal Robo Chilwell Cancelo
          Bruno KDB Jota Anguissa
          Werner DCL

          Martinez Mitchell Barkley Watkins

          1. BeWater
            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
            • 1 Year
            10 months, 21 days ago

            Yes.

            1. Parsnips
                10 months, 21 days ago

                That will be my transfer then 🙂

          2. Zim0
            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
            • 3 Years
            10 months, 21 days ago

            Psg are looking so bad at the back this half

          3. JONALDINHO
            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
            • 4 Years
            10 months, 21 days ago

            Is Brewster going to start this weekend? Was planning to save FT but might use it to get Reece James and play him over Brewster

            1. BeWater
              • Fantasy Football Scout Member
              • 1 Year
              10 months, 21 days ago

              He should. He's hardly being kept out by Marco Van Basten and Brazilian Ronaldo. If a Sheffield United striker fell into a barrel full of tits they'd come up sucking their own thumb.

          4. Gudjohnsen
            • 4 Years
            10 months, 21 days ago

            A. Grealish to Mahrez
            B. Robertson, Grealish to James, KDB (C) for -4

            Got a horrible bench

          5. POTATO
            • 1 Year
            10 months, 21 days ago

            If you had only 7 or 8 starters and any transfer you made required a hit, would you FH this week?

            (I've already taken a -4 hit getting KdB & Wilson instead of Hamez & Kane earlier this week. I know...)

          6. Zim0
            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
            • 3 Years
            10 months, 21 days ago

            Everyone excited to own Werner as a mid next year?